Already with a playoff berth in hand, the visiting New York Red Bulls still have plenty to play for Sunday against D.C. United as they try to maintain their place atop the Supporters’ Shield Standings for top overall club in MLS, regardless of division.
It won’t be easy against a hard-charging D.C. side that has been transformed by two major midseason developments: the arrival of forward/midfielder Wayne Rooney and the opening of its new home, Audi Field.
As the Red Bulls (17-7-4, 55 points) sit one point ahead of Atlanta United in the battle for the best regular-season club in MLS, D.C. is in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, looking for a way into the top six that will advance to the playoffs.
The schedule is on the side of D.C. United (9-11-7, 34 points), who play six of their seven remaining games at Audi Field, where they have been reborn with a 7-2-0 record. And D.C. is 7-4-2 with Rooney, who has three goals and five assists since Aug. 1.
“The race in the East in tight,” D.C. defender Steven Birnbaum said, per mlssoccer.com. “There’s not a lot of room for error in these games and we’re playing a lot of good teams. Basically, all these games are must-wins for us. That’s how we’re looking at it.”
The Red Bulls were in need of the international break, having played five matches in 15 days, a run that concluded with a 3-0 defeat to Montreal on Sept. 1. They will have completed a 15-day break when they take the field against a D.C. team they have already defeated twice, including a victory on July 25 at Audi Field.
One New York player who took advantage of his call to international duty was Tyler Adams, who scored the lone goal in the United States’ 1-0 victory over rival Mexico. Adams figures to take the field Sunday in good form and brimming with confidence.
“We are expecting a really good (United) team,” the Red Bulls’ Danny Royer said, according to mlssoccer.com. “I think in the past they performed pretty well, they have had a lot of wins since Rooney came to their club. It is a different team than at the beginning of the season and we still have good memories against D.C. having won twice.”
—Field Level Media